15 Nov 2010

Kiwifruit vine disease action 'too slow'

6:08 pm on 15 November 2010

The kiwifruit industry has not acted quickly enough to remove vines infected with PSA, says the former chairperson of kiwifruit marketer Zespri, Doug Voss.

The number of orchards confirmed as having the vine disease rose on Monday to 13, three more than the day before. All are in the Te Puke and nearby Paengaroa areas.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was alerted to the possibility of PSA-infected vines 10 days ago.

Mr Voss, who is an organic kiwifruit grower in Tauranga, thinks there has been too much talk and not enough action over the outbreak.

Mr Voss says investigating how widespread the disease is delays dealing with it quickly and effectively.

Russell West, whose Bay of Plenty orchard was one of the first confirmed with the disease, says he has started cutting down some of the vines. Mr West says nearly 10% of a 4.3-hectare block of gold kiwifruit will be destroyed.

Latest figures from Zespri show the number of orchards in quarantine with suspected infections has climbed.

The ministry has issued 14 orchards with a restricted place notice, meaning nothing can move on or off the sites. It is carrying out tests on 93 other orchards reporting symptoms of PSA.

Agriculture Minister David Carter, having been briefed on Monday on the chances of eradicating the disease, says an aggressive containment programme will be put in place to fight the disease.

Zespri says the first orchardist to report leaf spotting is now witnessing red fluid weeping from dying shoots and canes on the property.

Growers at the worst-affected orchards have started cutting back vines and removing plant material under the management of the ministry.

Copper-spraying has been completed at one orchard and was on Sunday nearing completion on a second.